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Chowbeng, how about Fan of Beauties? DongBin, HPC, Jaya, Ysabel, you are welcome. Sky, I missed it, what's so funny? Kowloon, thanks for your input anyway.

Book 16 Chapter 7 - The Heart of a Beauty

Stunned, Li Jing said, "What did I, Li Jing do, that after so many years not seeing each other, and now we barely meet, you already said such thing?”

Kou Zhong replied in anger, "Whatever you do, Sire ought to be well aware. In vain we regarded you as a brother, but in order to curry favor with your Master you betrayed us.”

Li Jing went two steps down the stairs, and stood face to face with Kou Zhong. His countenance changed, he said, "Who do you think I, Li Jing, am? How could I betray brothers and friends for fame and fortune? Tell me clearly.”

Kou Zhong took two steps back toward the intersection between the stairs and the corridor in order to avoid blocking the way. Turning around to face Li Jing, who was following behind him, he said, "Unless you revealed to Li kid about Xiao Ling has a mask, how could Li kid be so certain that we stole the Jade Annulus of He Clan?”

Li Jing was slightly startled. He was frowning for half a day; and then he sighed, and said with a wry smile, "Just consider that I did mention it! But I really don't understand, what good would stealing the Jade Annulus of He Clan do to you?”

Kou Zhong spouted fire, "What do you mean just consider that you mentioned it? In Su Jie's affair, it was very difficult for us to argue with you, at most we can only say that you did not remember kindness, coveting the new forgetting the old …”

"Shut up!” Li Jing angrily thundered, "The more you talk the more excessive you are.”

Two pretty maids, who happened to walk by, were scared that they promptly quickened their steps, for fear that if the two men fought, it would bring disaster to the fish in the moat.

Fortunately the entire Tingliu Pavilion was clamorous with all kinds of noises shaking the heavens, so that even if the two were shouting and screaming, it would not be particularly noticeable.

Li Jing suddenly sighed, his voice turned gentle, "It doesn't matter how the two of you misunderstood me, from beginning to end I always regard you and Xiao Ling as my good Xiongdi, all of us have been through life and death friendship. Besides, do you even know the consequences of offending Qin Wang?

Kou Zhong also returned to his calm demeanor. He laughed coldly and said, "You'd better stop regarding us as Xiongdi, otherwise when your Master want you to deal with us, how are you going to answer him? The time that we are in, there are only friends and enemies. Ay! I seldom got this angry, because all along I have trusted you, but you have made me so disappointed.”

Li Jing was upset; he said, "Can you not being hopelessly muddled in this matter? Right now this matter has reached its most dangerous phase. One wrong step, bloodshed will happen, and it would be very difficult to redeem.”

Frowning, Kou Zhong said, "This matter has begun to be difficult to redeem; are you still so naïve as to think that you'd be able to have us hand over the Jade Annulus of He Clan to you, and bow before Li kid? You underestimate me, Kou Zhong, too much.”

Li Jing's eyes flickered with cold rays, showing off his dauntless power, as he spoke in heavy voice, "I am very clear of Qin Wang's conduct, how he handles affairs decisively. Once he determines that you are his enemy, he will spare no effort in dealing with you.”

Kou Zhong laughed calmly; he said, "Apparently I know better about Li kid's mind that you do: he is afraid of Li Mi far more than he is afraid of me, Kou Zhong; therefore, one day Li Mi did not collapse, he has no interest in dealing with me.”

Li Jing shook his head, "You are wrong,” he said, "You and Xiao Ling are two figures who are able to make him fear and admire at the same time. Moreover, the way you stole the Jade Annulus of He Clan exposed your sharp point too much, and thus deepening his misgivings even more, to say nothing of your involvement in the ‘Duke Yang Treasure'. Ay! If you are willing to trust me this one last time, leave Luoyang immediately, go back to the south. Perhaps you might enjoy bright sunny days for a few more days.”

Kou Zhong waited for a group of servants passing by, before speaking in displeasure, "What wind and waves I, Kou Zhong, have never been through, that I would need you to remind me? Right now, who doesn't want to take our lives, yet we are still getting by in relaxed and happy manners?”

Li Jing earnestly gave him a well-meaning advice again, "It's just because you have not formally fought hand-to-hand against him. Presently Ning Daoqi and Shi Feixuan, these top martial art masters from the orthodox way, have vaguely become his supporters. On top of that, based on the sharpness of his strength, there has been hardly anybody in the world who could oppose him. Furthermore, your own wings have not grown yet. Opposing him openly is no different than throwing your lives away. Why don't you go quicker?”

Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "I am going! But I am going back to my room. Sharpen your sword! Next time we meet, we are not Xiongdi anymore.”

Raising his head high, he walked away.

※ ※ ※

A sweet sounding female voice was heard outside the door, "Is Kou Zhong here?”

Xu and Ba, two men, recognized the voice as belonging to Song Yuzhi. Xu Ziling responded, "Kou Zhong's not here, but he'll be back soon. San Xiaojie [third miss], please come in and have a seat.”

Because of the questionable way Kou Zhong was using emotion to gain loyalty, Xu Ziling was very scared to face Song Yuzhi. However, in terms of sensibility and courtesy, he simply had to invite her in to sit down.

Ba Fenghan rose up to his full height and said, "Why don't you and San Xiaojie have a chat? I need to go down to the street to get fresh air.”

Xu Ziling trembled inwardly, knowing that after careful reflection, Ba Fenghan still determined to intercept Qu Ao on the street.

Ba Fenghan pulled open the door, and smiled at Song Yuzhi, who was standing erect outside the door, and nodded to beckon her in. After she gracefully stepped inside, he mumbled his farewell and went away.

Responding to Xu Ziling's urging, she sat down and spoke awkwardly, "Am I disturbing you guys?”

Xu Ziling sat down across the table from her. After pouring her a cup of fragrant tea he smiled and said, "How can that be? We came in too late to welcome you. Ba Xiong just have some other important matter, hence he seized the opportunity to slip out!”

Looking pensive, Song Yuzhi said, "It's really surprising that you and Ba Fenghan could become friends, considering he is the kind of person who is extraordinarily cold and detached toward others.”

And then, after staring at him deeply for quite a while, she said in astonishment, "Your changes are more formidable than Kou Zhong's!”

Xu Ziling was stunned, "What changes?” he asked.

Song Yuzhi said, "It's some kind of changes that are hard to describe, not only in outward appearance, there is also personality traits, a kind of ethereal, pure and limpid feeling. The ‘Secret to Long Life' is indeed out of the ordinary.”

Xu Ziling inwardly thought that it ought to be the ‘Secret to Long Life' plus the Jade Annulus of He Clan; but he did not wish to discuss this matter further, thereupon he changed the subject by asking, "San Xiaojie seems to be concerned about Kou Zhong?”

As soon as he said that, he regretted it already.

Smiling wryly, Song Yuzhi said, "If I denied, I would have said it without meaning it. But please don't misunderstand. To me, you and Kou Zhong do not differ much; perhaps because we have worked together and have spent some time together in the past, or perhaps because I admire your style in doing things, hence I always feel that the two of you are Yuzhi's friends, and thus worry about you.”

Xu Ziling scrutinized her flowery jade countenance. He said, "San Xiaojie appears thinner.”

Song Yuzhi's pretty face blushed slightly, but quickly revealed a fleeing sad [orig. hidden bitterness, secret grudge] expression, as she hung her cicada head down and said softly, "You ought to know, there is no way I can marry Kou Zhong. This intention has never changed.”

Stunned, Xu Ziling said, "I thought you regarded Kou Zhong with different, unusual perception!”

Song Yuzhi raised her head to meet his gaze, her pretty eyes shot penetrating, clear and bright rays, her pretty eyebrows slightly knitted as she said, "We have not seen each other for a long time, why do you have such thought?”

Xu Ziling could not resist replying, "After seeing you last night, Kou Zhong returned with spring breeze on his face, hence the reason I had this misconception.”

Song Yuzhi gazed deeply at him for half a day; finally she shook her head resolutely and said, "Not only I have not changed my perception on him, I have not changed my treatment toward him, and I even hate him more than I did.”

Staring blankly, Xu Ziling said, "You hate him more?”

Song Yuzhi nodded and said, "A woman can be sincere toward a man, or she can be critical and sensitive. Although Kou Zhong is adept in using sweet speech and honeyed words, but from his conduct and action, it is very easy to detect that his mouth does not agree with his heart.”

Hearing that, Xu Ziling was confused, but he had to admit that he neither understood nor comprehended the load in a woman's heart; therefore, he humbly asked for advice, "From which action of his did San Xiaojie find something was not right?”

Song Yuzhi solemnly replied, "I can tell you that, but you must promise not to tell Kou Zhong.”

Xu Ziling sighed. "Very well!” he said, "I promise.”

Song Yuzhi took her eyes away from him, she looked pass his shoulder toward empty space outside the balcony, which was surrounded by four multi-story buildings that were as bright as daytime. She spoke emotionlessly, "He has never taken the initiative to look for me, even never asked how to find me. If just as he said, he really considered me important, why he had never considered my wish and desires? Just from this point, I know he does not have me in his heart.”

Xu Ziling was dumbstruck and was unable to reply.

But in his heart he was thinking: if from time to time he thought about certain woman, would he want to see her again?

The first one floating in his mind was Susu's jade countenance, and then Sister-in-law Zhen [Book 1 Chapter 2], whose fragrant footprint was unknown. But these memories had nothing to do with the relationship between a man and a woman.

And then their images blurred away, replaced by an image that appeared in the lake of his heart, Shi Feixuan's out-of-the-mundane-world, free-from-vulgarity jade countenance. He could not help being shocked. Could it be that he had fallen in love with her?

But then he felt that it was not the case. It was simply because she had given him the most profound, unforgettable impression. Nothing more.

Smiling bitterly, Song Yuzhi said, "But Yuzhi has to admit that when I am with you guys, I always have exciting and moving feeling. Ay! Time slips by so quickly.”

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